The date for a key UN nature summit has finally been confirmed after a delay of more than two years, and amid fears that momentum to halt biodiversity loss around the world has been lost.
Ahead of the final round of negotiations in Nairobi this week, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity confirmed the Cop15 biodiversity conference will now be held December 5-17 in Montreal, Canada, after it became clear China would not be able to , to host the event in Kunming due to the country’s zero Covid policy.
It comes after several pandemic-related delays to the meeting, which was due to take place in October 2020, and amid intense frustration with Beijing, which is chairing a major UN environment agreement for the first time.
Concerns had mounted about the prohibitive costs of smaller countries attending Cop15 if held in China, as well as concerns about restrictions on civil society, indigenous groups and the press.
At a meeting on Tuesday, officials signed the plan to host Cop15 near the UN headquarters for biodiversity in Quebec. China retains responsibility for hosting and organizing the event and will do so in coordination with the Canadian government.
Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the country was proud to host the conference. “There is an urgent need for international partners to halt and reverse the alarming global biodiversity loss,” he said.
The decennial nature summit will follow Egypt’s Cop27 but will clash with the World Cup in Qatar, raising fears of a lack of attention and participation from senior politicians and ministers, which was a key part of Cop26 in Glasgow, Scotland. The final Global Biodiversity Framework Agreement is expected to be negotiated in the hours leading up to the World Cup finals on December 18th.
At a parliamentary committee on Monday, Britain’s Environment Ministers Lord Goldsmith and George Eustice refused to confirm whether the Prime Minister would attend but said he was likely to play a role.
In a statement, China’s Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said the country would like to emphasize its continued strong commitment to working with all parties and stakeholders to ensure Cop15’s success.
Negotiations on the deal are set to resume this week in Nairobi, Kenya, with significant disagreements over proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, money for biodiversity protection and the use of the digital sequence information to make cosmetics , medicines and other products.
Governments have never met a goal to stop the destruction of nature, and there are fears this deal will be a repeat of what happened before, amid concerns of a standoff with the global North and South over resources protection of natural places.
In March, at the end of the Geneva talks, came dramatic intervention by Gabon on behalf of a group of developing countries demanding $100bn (£80bn) in biodiversity finance, on top of the $100bn in climate finance previously earmarked for Divisions have caused Cop27.
Despite the clarity over the Cop15 date, Oscar Soria, campaigns director at activism website Avaaz, said talks had lost momentum and it was a missed opportunity to show environmental leadership.
“2020 should be the China-led super year for nature; Two years later, Beijing’s indecisiveness seriously jeopardized a diplomatic process to halt biodiversity loss.
“Now this super year of failure can only be averted by the leadership of the UN. We only have a few months and a lot of diplomatic work needs to be done. And while it’s now clear when and where the next cop will take place, a big question remains whether China can effectively hold the presidency as an ambitious deal for nature,” he said.
Li Shuo, Greenpeace China Political Advisor, said: “Governments have finally made a decision on where and when the Cop15 will take place. This should now draw everyone’s attention to the quality of the deal. That means ambitious targets to ensure strong protection both on land and at sea and a solid implementation package.
“At the forthcoming preparatory meeting in Nairobi, countries should advance the draft agreement. The remaining months until Cop15 should be used effectively to resolve contentious issues such as finances.”